Summer Heroes: George Hincapie

What does it mean to be on a team? Few understand it as well as George Hincapie.

Few will accept it.

GeorgehincapieThe buzz is getting louder about the probability George Hincapie will emerge as Lance Armstrong’s heir apparent on the Discovery Channel Team in next year’s Tour, and in my opinion, deservedly so.

Read this interview Hinacapie gave to the BBC:

Life with Lance: George Hincapie

My job is to protect a team leader and that, in my case, just so happens to be Lance.

And yes, that’s my sole job. To ensure he comes to no harm, ensure he’s in the best possible position before the really nasty parts of any climb kick in and ensure he’s wearing the yellow jersey for a seventh time in Paris.

Some people don’t get it. They say "don’t you ever just want to do something for yourself?" which is missing the point.

I know it’s hard to fully comprehend for those outside cycling, in fact anyone outside of the team at times.

But the simple fact is that Lance has always been our best-positioned rider to win the race so all efforts go on that.

And when I see him standing on that podium in yellow, that buzz is just as special as me winning one of the Classics.

Cycling really is a team effort. When Lance gets that win, the whole team knows they have done absolutely everything in their capability to get him there.

There are moments when I get to do it for myself – the time trials for example – and Lance seems just as happy to see me do well in those as himself.

But my main role is to make sure I ride next to him whenever possible and keep him out of mischief. Thankfully it’s worked for the most part up until now.

During the flatter stages that generally entails keeping him at the front of the peloton to ensure that, if any crashes happen, he’s generally clear of them.

And in the mountains, I ride as his lead-out man to get him into a steady tempo and, in the process, shake off some of his rivals.

I try to do my level best to stay in front of him for as long as possible however painful it gets. After that, it’s up to me to peel away and let the likes of the Ace [Jose Azevedo] step in for the harsher climbs.

I then make my way to the end of the stage as best I can. Sometimes it’s a killer but, if it means I go over the line seeing Lance celebrating a stage win or in the leader’s yellow jersey, that’s fine by me.

Tour 7, Stage 15

This past Sunday though, it was Hincapie’s day for glory, as he won the toughest stage in this year’s Tour de France, sprinting to a victory high up in the Pyrenees. There were a lot of online articles about it, and I relished reading them all. This one by John Leicester for the Canadian Press probably wrapped them all up best for me, for it highlights a pretty special relationship.

There is no denying the incredible inspiration of Lance Armstrong, and what he has taught us about Ho‘ohana and ‘Imi ola, living your best possible life within your passions. However for me, the Tour de France is the Lōkahi story of teamwork.

Le Tour.

From a year ago: Summer Heroes

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  1. says

    Great post Rosa. Cycle racing, especially in the grand tours, is a combination of teamwork, psychology and physiology. And what a great team Discovery have.
    It’s amazing to see Savoldelli go back to the team car and pick up half a dozen bottles to share with the team. He is a Giro d’Italia winner, but he is happy to serve the greater goal of getting Armstrong to Paris in yellow.
    It’s interesting to me also that Lance is on for a seventh win, but this is the first year that his team mates have ridden away to their own stages wins (Hincapie and Savoldelli). Do you think Discovery are doing a little succession planning?

  2. says

    Yes Adrian, I do think there is succession planning AND some smart marketing in getting the rest of us excited about the prospect of LAA – cycling life after Armstrong.
    My brother and his family will be here on the Big Island Sunday – as part of his 2-week R&R home from Iraq – and so we’ll be having a great time watching the culmination of Le Tour that day together.
    I’m enjoying your own cycling posts too: good tips.